Gingerly Made: The Anti-Princess Movement

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Anti-Princess Movement

Have you heard about the Anti-Princess Movement? You can do a quick Google search on the topic and come up with a host of opinions. But the essence of 'the movement' is this; Disney princesses teach little girls to be weak, fragile creatures who think physical beauty and finding a prince are the only sources of happiness for a girl. The people behind this philosophy believe that princesses are spoiled brats who feel entitled to whatever they want and will run over everyone else to get it.

I don't know about you, but this makes me sad, angry, and frustrated. That is absolutely not what being a princess is about, or why most little girls are naturally drawn to them. Now, there are those girls who do act like spoiled little brats and kick and scream to get what they want, but I would never call them a princess. Diva is more like it.

Disney princesses in particular are getting the brunt of criticism. I, however, would like to offer an opposite opinion; why Disney princesses can be a model for little girls, or at the least a teaching tool. Before you get too judgmental, hold your horses, I've got more to say that will be controversial, but please hear me out.

As a believer in Christ, I learn what a woman should be from the Bible. And here's where I want you to be patient with me. Many of you may have wrong opinions about what the Bible teaches in regards to women. It is not the suppressive text you think. There are many, many heroines in the Bible, and most are from humble origins. They were courageous and strong in a time when women had very few rights. In fact, they often put themselves into dangerous situations that could have cost them their life and still remained obedient to God. Here is a list of the
women in the Bible with links to their stories if you are interested. Please keep in mind that this is a list of the women in the Bible, not all are heroines. Some of my favorites are Esther, Ruth, and Mary the mother of Jesus. The values I learned from these women are also some of the things I believe Disney tries to portray as well; kindness, compassion, graciousness, discernment, contentment, self-sacrificing, and showing strength through their trials.

Ok, so back to the Princesses. Here is my break down of each.

An example of graciousness and kindness even through great hardship and oppression. Cinderella was the daughter of a wealthy man and who married poorly. After his death, her step-mother wasted their wealth on the two step-sisters. These sisters are divas, spoiled brats who think they are entitled to everything they want when they want it. This family forces Cinderella, the true heir and father's beloved daughter, to work as a servant. And through all of this she remains kind and compassionate to those even less fortunate than herself; the mice and other animals. She remains polite to her step family. She works hard. It is her personality that endears the animals to her and also make her deserving of a fairy godmother that wants to make her wishes come true. The Prince is nice, but he is a side story. The real victory in this story is her triumph over oppression.

Sleeping Beauty & Snow White
: I'm lumping these two Princess stories together because they are really the same. Both Princesses were driven into hiding by threats from jealous witches. They were both forced to live humble lives as peasants. But they were happy. They found friendship and love. They lived simply. Not what you would think of when you think about a princess, right?

Like Cinderella, Belle was not born a princess. She became one. She was intelligent, kind, and discerning. Belle was the weirdo in her town because she could read and enjoyed reading for pleasure. She continued reading despite criticism because there was nothing wrong with it and it made her happy. When, fellow villager, Gaston proposed to her, she turned him down because she knew that he was not an ideal mate. Belle did not need a man. And she certainly wasn't going to choose the first one that came along.

She was also brave and self-sacrificing. When her father was trapped and enslaved, she sacrificed her life and freedom in exchange for her father's freedom. Even through these circumstances, she remained gentle and merciful to the Beast. She showed compassion when the Beast could not use a spoon. She suggested drinking from a bowl instead, making her captor feel more comfortable. She saw past his beastly demeanor and saw tenderness within him. This Princess was the only one who actually came to the rescue of her 'Prince,' the Beast. Her love saved his life.

Jasmine: Jasmine was probably also an educated Princess. She knew her own mind. She desired freedom and did not want to marry just any Prince that came along. She valued honesty and was brave. Ultimately she went against her cultural norm and fell in love with and engaged herself to a non-Prince.

Ariel (The Little Mermaid): While Ariel was my personal favorite as a child, looking back, I think she has the least to offer as a role model. She was rebellious, inconsiderate of the feelings of others, and impetuous. Ariel was so head-strong, a term used in the movie I might add, that she deliberately disobeyed her father by seeking out humans. When she was told not to continue seeking after humans, who mermaids viewed as dangerous, she ran away. She didn't leave a note. For all her family knew, a shark could have eaten her. Not only did she run away, she ran to a witch, who took Ariel's most valuable talent, her voice, in exchange for making her human. So now Ariel is alone, without a voice, and has three days to make the Prince fall in love with her or else she will be enslaved to the witch. Sure things worked out in the end, but in the process, she not only risked her life, but her father's life, and her love's. When all the while her father had the power to change her into a human if she would have convinced him that she wanted to see what their world was like. It might not have yielded the quick results that she wanted, but hey, patience is a virtue, is it not?

To wrap up this long post, I would just like to say that my 22 month old daughter is already obsessed with Princesses, and without any encouragement either. She's just drawn to them and not for any of the moral reasons I listed above. No, she just likes to play dress up, play with her baby dolls, and have tea parties. Of course she also likes blocks, choo choos, and balls. I am not under any delusions about why she likes Princesses. But, I have no problems with it because as she ages and matures, she will see and learn, and I will emphasize what true beauty and real Princesses are really about. In closing, here is a picture of my little Princess playing with her blocks.

I know this subject can be controversial and there are many opinions about it. I welcome any comments and discussion, but please remember to be kind and respectful to one another. I will delete any rude, vulgar, or otherwise nasty comments.


  1. Hi Ginger!

    I love your points so when I state my opinion, let me also say, I'm no longer raising "little" ones (my kids are teens)... so I'm past the place of needing alternative views.

    We never denied our girls the Princess experience, but it was very limited. I had a lot of problems with the Disney princess world. I am a Christian AND a feminist. As you pointed out, it's not inconsistent. What always gnawed at me was probably the same issues at the core of the "anti princess" world.

    I always liked Belle though, because her first love with books, she was loyal to her father and she liked the beast above and beyond the "physical". Belle was highly endorsed in the FreshGreen household. But I steered them to the THEN relatively new Veggie Tales.

    12-13 years ago, the Veggie Tale series was very male-centric. I wrote Big Idea expressing my concern. How could we encourage young Christian girls if Bob and Larry were the only examples? Well not too far after, they released the Queen Esther story. I will not claim credit, but instead say that our voices matter. We need to speak up, we need to share with our children how their media hero(ines) match the values we instill.

    Good job for finding a Christian perspective for the princessology. You deserve a tiara! :)

  2. Hi Kim! Yes, Veggie Tales are an absolute must around here. And if you feel like choosing one or the other, a far better choice than Disney. I 100% agree with you there.

    That's really cool about your contacting Big Idea and their coming out with Esther. I recently saw their SweatPea Beauty and LOVED it! It's their versions of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, both stories emphasizing the importance of inner beauty over outer beauty. Wonderful stories and for those who are anti-Disney an excellent alternative for princess stories!

  3. I loved this post! These are key characteristics we can help our children understand and develop as they get older. I like what you said about the little mermaid, I hadn't seen it since I was a child, and watched it the other day, and was shocked with her disregard and ignorance.
    New follower by the way, thanks for following my blog :)

  4. I know this is an old post. But I just found it and it really touched me. I am a mother of a young girl (and a feminist, and a counselor that works with kids) and we love the Disney Princesses. I really like what Disney has done with developing the characteristics of each princess. As you said, they each have their hardships and they each have their unique strengths.
    My daughter and I often discuss the princesses when learning opportunities or difficult challenges present themselves. We talk about how we learned from Belle how important it is to not judge people by the way they look. We talk about how kind and gentle Cinderella is with animals.
    I agree that I have not found as much of a moral lesson with Ariel. But I think kids can relate to her playful and adventurous nature. Sometimes we talk about Ursula in terms of bullying.
    When I grew up, most of the boys were interested in superheroes. And they still are (as is my daughter). But when I was young, we didn't really have a lot of cool girl characters that had strengths and complex situations. I really like how Disney has created a line of young women that have differences to celebrate.
    Phew... this is getting long. Sorry, I just really liked the post. So here is my last statement. I know a lot of folks object to princesses who are just searching for their prince. I think it is human nature to search for a partner. Isn't that what most of us do? The older princesses (Aurora and Snow White) I think need to be looked at contextually in the time period in which they were popular. Women's rights and women's experiences have come a long way since then.
    Thanks for finding my blog. I'm a new follower :)

  5. You are absolutely right, it's so sad, my daughter is grown and I now have a granddaughter. She loves to dress up and it really gives her the sense of feeling good inside, as my daughter did. I'm a Christian and I sincerely believe that we all, tweens, teens, parents and adults would love to be a kid again and feel that warm feeling of being special. Boys have sports figures to look up to or other types of people to look up to. I know little girls won't grow up to be Princesses (of course, they could prove me wrong) but at least they know they are happy, when all those special memories come flooding back to them.

    I taught brownie troops when my daughter was growing up and did everything I could to make the girls feel good about themselves and be proud of who they are. We teach Sunday school and try to make each one feel special. We had Barbie and Princesses when I was growing up and I felt special having all my dolls. What is wrong with people. Someone is always stirring up something. Some don't want people to feel good about themselves, like bullies they don't like themselves or their life so they bully someone to make themselves look good. That never works only makes them sadder and more of a bully.

    I pray that one day we will be able to live together without so much criticism, violence and predaceous. God wanted us all to be happy while we are here, but not at the expense of others. I can't imagine how it feels to be a critical person, I know I try to keep my house clean and I have a happy marriage. I have medical problems that I will have for the rest of my life, but why would I want to put my anger towards others. Little girls, just want to grow up and feel special as do little boys. Our children can be anything they want to be and as Parents we try hard to help them reach that goal. Heaven help those people who want to take being a child and playing dress up away our children. I'm not going to look at all the criticism. You've told me all I wanted to know. I will continue to pray for these people and hope that whoever took their childhood away from them, will try and make it up to them. But after the fact it's going to be hard.


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